There was no official workout today, but several of the Yankees pitchers went to the outfield at Steinbrenner Field to play catch in the morning. Otherwise, the day was all about settling in and taking the first steps of spring training. For Brian Cashman, the first order of business seemed to be keeping expectations for Michael Pineda in check. Pineda was the first name mentioned when Cashman met with the media outside the Yankees clubhouse.
“I’ve seen people write he slots in right behind CC in the rotation,” Cashman said. “As far as I’m concerned, that’s not the case. He is a young, high-end arm that we look forward to growing into someone who we hope can be a consistent winner for the Yankees going forward. But I think expecting stuff like that out of the gate and expecting him to gravitate to the front of our rotation so early, we don’t have those illusions. We think we have some other guys right now who have some more experience and are more worthy of being at the front end.”
Cashman said the same idea would apply to Jesus Montero if he were still with the Yankees: This is a young player who’s expected to do great things one day, but the Yankees still see some development to be done. With Pineda, that development obviously starts with the changeup.
“It’s a below-average pitch for him right now,” Cashman said. “I don’t think there’s a No. 1 or 2 starter in the big leagues right now with only two pitches. I just don’t think you can maybe pitch like that for an extended period of time. To be a consistent number one or two starter, you need more than two pitches.
“In fairness, to frame it properly, I made the trade for a reason. I’m dreaming on the guy, obviously, and we’re dreaming on the guy but the fact of the matter is there’s work to be done still and we look forward to working with him and watching him work towards that. Time will tell. But its going to take time.”
Some other notes from today.
• Cashman quickly shot down the idea that Pineda’s development could include a trip to Triple-A this season? “That’s not something I’m thinking about,” he said.
• CC Sabathia’s locker is in a corner at the end of a row that includes all of the Yankees rotation candidates. It’s probably no coincidence that two lockers closest to him are Pineda and Manny Banuelos. “I’m looking forward to getting to know (Pineda) and talk to him,” Sabathia said. “He’s a big guy, so we’ve got a few things in common.”
• Two other things about the locker assignments: Even though he’s technically part of the team, there was no locker for A.J. Burnett. There was, however, an empty locker along the very back row that’s typically home to significant big leaguer position players (Swisher, Teixeira, Jones and Granderson are back there). That looks like the spot being saved for Raul Ibanez. I only noticed three other open lockers: One right next to Alex Rodriguez, one right next to Derek Jeter, and one corner locker where Mark Prior and Kei Igawa have been in the past.
• Speaking of open lockers: “People have asked me about Eric Chavez,” Cashman said. “I’ve continued dialogue, not a negotiation but a dialogue, with Eric Chavez. I like Eric. I thought he was a nice player for us last year, a nice complement off the bench, but I can’t honestly tell you that I can do any and all of it just yet. I don’t want to get ahead of myself just yet.”
• Cashman wouldn’t specifically address the Burnett situation, saying he wanted to wait until the issue was finalized. An official announcement could be coming from the Yankees at any moment.
• Cashman also wouldn’t get into specifics about his thoughts on the rotation competition because he knows that too much can change between now and Opening Day. He realizes there are six pitchers for five spots, but he also realizes that someone could fall out of that competition for one reason or another. “I’m not trying to jinx us by even talking about it,” he said. “But I’ve lived through it long enough to know.”
• Sabathia hasn’t thrown off a mound since the end of last season, but he’s been playing catch through most of the winter and feels ready to throw his first bullpen tomorrow. It really is amazing how differently some guys train in the winter. There are young guys who have been throwing off a mound since November, and then there’s Mariano Rivera who might not throw off a mound for another week.
• Speaking of Rivera, he is — of course — going to report late. “He told me at the baseball writers’ dinner,” Cashman said. “He told me ‘Cash, I just wanted to give you the heads up, I might be a little late.’ I just said, ‘Just tell me when you’re coming.’ I mean, what am I going to do? It’s Mariano Rivera. I’ve gotten to the point where every year, he knows what he needs to do. He gets his eight innings in the spring, but he’s just amazing. He really is amazing. You’ll never see anything like that again. But we’re thankful that he’s still with us, that he’s doing what he’s doing, and hopefully he can continue that again this year for us. We will see him at some point but the Mariano Watch, don’t worry about it. It’s with permission. Well…” Cashman cut himself off. Is it really permission when the player clearly dicates the terms and the team clearly doesn’t care? Like Cashman said, it’s Mariano. The man’s earned a little trust.
• Hiroki Kuroda didn’t get into specifics, but he hinted that he turned down more money in order to play for the Yankees. “I don’t know what’s considered a better offer,” he said. “But I have heard there were better offers from other teams.”
• Cashman said one reason there are so many veteran DH-types still on the free agent market is that they’re all hoping to be the one chosen for the Yankees opening. “I’ve had enough dialogue, I know they all want to come here and I know they want to be a part of this place,” Cashman said. “I don’t know what the other options are or the other offers are. They might be more significant than what we could be willing to pay, they might be less, they may be none. I don’t know. I do know there’s a vacancy sign sitting here.”
• Finally, Cashman partially addressed his personal issues, saying the past few weeks have been “difficult” for him. “I can just tell you that it’s not going to affect my job, and I’m going to do my job to the best of my abilities as I always have,” Cashman said.